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Mars Space Science

The Phoenix Has Landed 369

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the zomg-we-found-ponys dept.
Iddo Genuth writes "Precisely at 7:53PM EST, the "Phoenix Mars Lander" touched-down on the desert-like surface of Mars. Since its launch on August 4th, 2007, the spacecraft has covered more than 680,752,512 kilometers, traveling at average speeds of around 120,000 km/hr. Upon arriving at its destination, the Phoenix will begin its exploration of our intriguing neighbor planet, in a mission to help astronomers resolve at least some of the many questions regarding Mars. The key question remains: can the Red Planet support some form of life?" Hella grats to our nerd brethren — you looked great on the Science channel. Yes I'm watching this live. Can't wait to see what happens next.
Update: 05/26 03:0 GMT by KD : zof sends a link to the first pictures from Phoenix.
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The Phoenix Has Landed

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  • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @07:50PM (#23539661)
    What are the chances of puttering around for a few hundred meters on earth and randomly finding a human skeleton?..
  • Re:live (Score:5, Insightful)

    by explosivejared (1186049) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `deraj.nagah'> on Sunday May 25, 2008 @07:53PM (#23539677)
    Well, if you are going to be pedantic nothing is really live because relativity precludes true simultaneity. I think we all understand what he means.

    All in all, it does my heart well to see such mainstream coverage of the event. My parents, who are sort of aloof to anything scientific, are even paying attention to it on the 24 hour news. It's these sort of things turning into moments that reach across all of society that inspire new generations of kids to become scientists.
  • by Jeremi (14640) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:00PM (#23539739) Homepage
    A human skeleton? Not very high. But any skeleton? In areas that used to be underwater, you often find fossilized imprints of shellfish, etc, every few inches.
  • Congratulations... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JavaBasedOS (1217930) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:08PM (#23539793)
    ... to those scientists that worked hard and put both heart and soul for at least a decade on Phoenix. I can't wait to see what images and data we get from Phoenix.

    It's going to be an eventful summer here on Earth, that's for sure.
  • What gets me is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jamstar7 (694492) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:11PM (#23539819)
    all the work that went into the mission so far that made this look easy. It wasn't. But they did a helluva job on the prep work to make it look like business as usual.

    Great job, JPL & Arizona!

  • Junkyboy55 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Junkyboy55 (1183037) <pavan.teknobot@net> on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:11PM (#23539821) Homepage
    Knowing some of the engineers that work on and manage these programs I am very happy with landing and everything it represents. More so I am looking forward to other robots, not the rover type but different task oriented machines like Robonaut [nasa.gov] and Chariot [nasa.gov] to make it off of Earth!
  • Re:"Precisely?" (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:31PM (#23539935)
    And now you've supported his point that precisely is not appropriate.
  • by Martin Blank (154261) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:45PM (#23540007) Journal
    Define what a "real" scientific advancement would be, please.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:48PM (#23540023) Journal
    Back in the 60's and 70's, we all came together on saying that ALL of this was important

    No we weren't [youtube.com].
         
  • Re:live (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:52PM (#23540037) Journal
    It's these sort of things turning into moments that reach across all of society that inspire new generations of kids to become scientists.

    So they can shit bricks for 7 minutes as their billion-dollar experiment and paycheck hang in the balance? It's one thing to watch on CNN from the comfort of your big fluffy chair, but remember these people had their asses on the line. People lost their jobs when the Polar Lander crashed in the 90's.
           
  • by gmuslera (3436) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @09:14PM (#23540191) Homepage Journal
    What kind of philosophical rethinking? that life ever could only exist in Earth? Thats looks more religion than philosophy.

    Or science, if there is an agreement that Mars could had never sustained complex/big lifeforms.

    Or, as someone else suggested, math, because we beat badly the odds of finding something life related doing a relatively very short trip in something that looks more like a desert than a jungle (well, in this case we will go back to religion very soon).
  • by spoco2 (322835) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @10:18PM (#23540539)
    Would you have said the same thing to people inventing the sailing ship all those moons ago?

    "Oh, other than the feeling of putting people on another country, what's the point?"

    It's attitudes like this, that are so very narrow and shallow minded that cause people to become insular and think only of their own back yard in all affairs.

    Other than the scientific achievements in doing this, there is the overall good it does to the human spirit to see ourselves as a race be able to conquer the distances, to think of a huge problem like this and surmount it with science.

    If it encourages kids to do more in the way of science rather than religious persecution etc., I'm all for it.
  • Re:NASA web site (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AMuse (121806) <slashdot-amuse.foofus@com> on Sunday May 25, 2008 @10:23PM (#23540561) Homepage
    In their defense, I would guess that the moment the thing lands they're busy checking the instrumentation to make sure nothing got damaged, setting up instructions for what the lander is to DO now, informing superiors/science groups/engineering teams/etc and basically... doing their jobs.

    I'm pretty sure it's not champagne parties for 2 hours before someone says "Hey, lets update the website guys!"
  • Re:Pictures (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @10:29PM (#23540597) Journal
    Here are the photos it has taken so far.

    Hmmm. It does have the polygons predicted [slashdot.org] from orbiter photos, but they are kind of dome-like rather than flat cracked plates like a dry lake bed. Thus, it's "domey" polygons.

    But they obviously succeeded in landing in a mostly boulder-free area. If it landed on a big boulder, it could easily end the mission. During the Viking days, they didn't have the resolution to check for large boulders, and about 30 feet from the Viking 1 lander was an SUV-sized boulder. Pathfinder didn't have that knowledge either; but because it used airbags, it was more likely to come to rest between boulders (although landing on a "spike" edge could have burst the bags).
             
  • by servognome (738846) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @11:30PM (#23540873)

    Would you have said the same thing to people inventing the sailing ship all those moons ago?
    It's apples & oranges - They didn't have the ability to send out automated ships to do exploration. Ships were sent out not for the mere purpose of exploration, but to discover trade opportunities. Explorers were travelling in a resource rich environment (food & water was likely available). And lastly the technology to send explorers was easily transferable to send settlers/tradesmen to profit from the voyage.
    Once technology matures to a similar point, then I'm all for sending people to Mars.

    Other than the scientific achievements in doing this, there is the overall good it does to the human spirit to see ourselves as a race be able to conquer the distances, to think of a huge problem like this and surmount it with science.
    The problem is the way such things are handled, with a political motive, we're more likely to have point solutions than real sustainable one. So then in the long run we end up having to reinvent the wheel (albeit with some previous learnings), because the original solution is not applicable for widespread use.

    If it encourages kids to do more in the way of science rather than religious persecution etc., I'm all for it.

    I doubt a Mars mission will have nearly the same cultural effect as the moon landing. Instead of showing kids a great achievement, spend only a fraction of the $80B it will cost to go to Mars and make them part of one. Sponsor student projects that actually would get launched into space, fund scholarships for space tourism trips.

    My point is why spend so many resources to hurry up and wait (40 years later we still haven't returned to the moon), when those resources could more efficiently be used with a steady path of advancement. We'd get a lot more mileage enabling private sector space travel, and travel to the moon a regular basis, than a single sexy mission to Mars.
  • by Bottlemaster (449635) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @11:31PM (#23540891)

    Other than the good feeling of putting a human on Mars what is the point? I'd rather see technology on Earth progress to the point where there insn't a reason to not send a person to Mars.
    Space races are all fine and dandy for countries to show off, but don't confuse such events with real scientific advancement.
    There isn't a point, and our solar system has much more useful places to colonize. Putting a man on Mars is akin to masturbation. I used to feel the same way until I saw this photograph, taken by Spirit [wikimedia.org].

    Life is so fragile, and although I'm sure human history is only just beginning, there's always a chance that our species won't survive long. If that turns out to be the case, then to me, these thousands of years of pointless strife and fruitless struggles would be justified if we could pointlessly carry a person to Mars and allow him to see that pointless sight - our sun setting on another planet. We should go to Mars as soon as we can. We may only have one chance.
  • by camperdave (969942) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @11:37PM (#23540915) Journal
    It would have been nice had they decided some of that extra gear should be a good digital color camera. I'm sick of seeing black and white images of other planets. It's like they sent this thing up in the Fourties and it's just now sending back images.

    It is much easier, and you get better science, to use a monochrome camera and throw different filters in front of it. Besides, you can get color by adding the right filters together.
  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @11:44PM (#23540947)

    I wonder, how long it would take either Spirit or Opportunity to drive there from their present locations if something interesting was found?

    Decades? Centuries? Even assuming they'd survive that long, those little rovers aren't very fast. Less than walking speed even when operational, and they have to hibernate every winter. And their point of view is low enough they'd be doubling back a lot, I'd imagine.

  • Re:EXACTLY. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by complete loony (663508) <Jeremy...Lakeman@@@gmail...com> on Monday May 26, 2008 @12:30AM (#23541237)

    The problem is that the steps involved in production and extraction of the isotope can also be used in the manufacture of weapons
    Fixed that for you. It's mostly a political problem.
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Monday May 26, 2008 @02:53AM (#23541983)

    I can't tell if this satire or if the local Honkey Tonk kicked out all the philosophical regulars early. Just in case it's the latter, metrics are standard in science. Yes, even for Americans.

    Better check your griddle, I think your Freedom Fries are burning.

  • by Sqityl (1101379) on Monday May 26, 2008 @03:00AM (#23542029)

    I love how we have to convert km into proper U.S. measurements even though we are the ones to fund this project through our tax dollars. I know that Slashdot tends to be a metric love-fest, but this support of our governments ridiculous attempts to conform to the french standard is unwarranted. If we are paying for it, we should be able to know how far it traveled without Google doing a conversion for us.
    I'd hardly blame the government. It's got more to do with how the metric system is so incredibly useful in science, and the people who publish this data are sure to appreciate this. It's not just because it makes it easier for foreign scientists to read, but because all the relevant equations in physics are all based around meters and grams. NASA scientists would be fools to change the equations, because simple arithmetic is much simpler with the metric system too. So it's not some government conspiracy, it's just because these are scientists talking.

    DISCLAIMER: I lived in a metricated country, so the measurements don't bother me at all.

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